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“Do your people feel good about the ways your organization contributes to the community?”

This Great Place to Work question doesn’t ask the employee to rate how well they believe their company contributes to the community, but instead focuses on whether the employee feels good about it.

I think the Institute is onto something. Early in my career, I worked in financial services at a company with a more corporate setting than Root’s. We focused on contributing to large charities – most significantly, to the United Way. When I arrived at Root, I started a United Way effort, only to be met with resistance from our people. Root employees (affectionately called “Rootsters”) didn’t appreciate the company suggesting that they opt for a payroll deduction to contribute. They also didn’t like being told where and when they should contribute their time and dollars.

I was a bit thrown aback; then again, most of the lessons I learned early on at Root were like that. I needed new tools in my toolbox to effectively engage people in a modern, non-traditional workplace. Rather than taking a top-down, corporate approach, I started viewing things through the lens of the employee experience. Adopting this change has made me a more effective leader. I decided to design a giving effort at the grassroots level, partnering with Rootsters who were passionate about giving.

Today, giving to the community is a vibrant part of our culture. We do it much differently than my previous employer, but it works for us! The proof is in our GPTW survey results: We achieved a score of 95 on whether employees “feel good” about the ways our organization contributes to the community.

Tips to Make Giving Work for You

  1. Let your people make the recommendations. Our Giving Team is made up of employees who volunteer their time to lead giving efforts throughout the year. These employees recruit peers for specific projects. We maintain an ongoing calendar of giving efforts – usually completing about one per month.
  2. Think beyond dollars. We’ve repurposed the money the company once gave to the community in the form of large checks into a grassroots giving effort, led by employees who are passionate about a specific initiative, organization, or cause. Here’s an example: For our effort for the MLK Kitchen for the Poor, a Toledo-based organization that feeds the hungry, Root matched donations in volunteer time and in monetary or food donations to the kitchen. Our people knew their efforts were multiplied by our organization and that they were volunteering their time for an effort chosen by the Giving Team. It was a win-win.
  3. Create guidelines. We develop each giving effort using a framework of “why,” “what,” and “how.” Root provides a financial match that is equivalent to both the volunteer time and monetary donations made by our people.
  4. Make it a part of your culture. One of our organizational values is “giving.” To us, this means we choose to give back by enriching the lives of others, by giving to each other and by giving back to our communities.
  5. Celebrate your good work. We celebrate the success of each effort and often ask representatives from the charities we work with to share with our people how we made a difference for them.

Robin Wooddall-Klein oversaw Root’s application to become a Great Place to Work®-CertifiedTM company. She’s happy to discuss what Root is doing right and the company plans to do next to evolve to become an even greater place to work. If you’d like to discuss what your organization can do to improve too, you can reach her at

December 20, 2018

More deeply rooted thinking

Developing Leaders and Managers


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